The closest thing to a big electric supercar in my life until now had been the defunct (and ugly, in hindsight) Honda Dual Note concept first shown in 2001 at the once-popular Tokyo motor show. It used all the electricity from the power stations that Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan managed not to destroy.
This one is real. The SLS E-Cell was talked about a lot right at its launch in 2009 and I've been dogging the heels of the Daimler villagers in Stuttgart and Affalterbach ever since. Then came the urgent call: The prototype, painted an appetizing matte "Lumilectric Magno" with matte-black everything else, would be left for testing on the Norwegian coast at the oil-derrick-servicing Kristiansund aerodrome.
Electric unripened-banana-colored supercars + 24-hour daylight + Norwegian coast = fun times for all. And you can't beat the salmon during the breaks in driving action.
Oh, and there was David Coulthard, too, right. He's retired from Formula One but still making the automotive circuits. I just wish that on the flight up he'd held up a warning flag prior to asking me if I'd yet joined the Mile High Club. The funniest things happen in business class.
Coulthard was just down from Brussels for 24 hours or so and had some time before heading to Germany for some DTM testing with Mercedes. He's a brand ambassador now, so he was joining our group for some publicity stills and video at the E-Cell's wheel.
And by the way, I proudly joined the Mile High Club somewhere between Oakland and Burbank back in 1985. What-do you say "no" when a Formula One guy asks a thing like that?
You cannot miss the SLS E-Cell's Emergency color scheme. If you have your back turned, however, you would miss it since it is truly silent. Those four electric motors make not a whisper at parking lot speeds. There's a low whine as I hammer the pedal and then the kickdown final inch, but other than that the car does have a very nice purr to it when switched on and standing still if you have your ear pressed to the fender panels.
So, first the filthy-minded yet somehow irresistibly chisel-chinned Coulthard took the SLS E-Cell for a whir. He returned to the helicopter-packed tarmac all smiles. Tough always to tell if these ambassadors for brands are just in ambassador mode, but he seemed to really like the silent SLS.
Then it was my turn. For all the kilograms dropped from ripping the M159 6.2-liter motor out of the SLS AMG, not to mention all of the emissions bits and entire exhaust system, we get back 992 pounds with the four electric motors, three-section lithium-ion battery pack assembly scheme, power electronics unit, and single-speed Getrag gearbox and transaxle. The good part is that all the weight is, as on all such current situations, kept very low down in the body, so there are good driving effects. The effective yaw point goes lower here by 23mm (0.90 of an inch). The bad part is that it's just plain pig-heavy at 4,585 pounds, especially in this early prototype form.
And this is a strict prototype, I must warn you. Incredibly open-talking and intelligent SLS E-Cell project maestros Daniel Semmler and Jan Feustel were not shaken or stirred when I leapt from the car after a spirited 44-mile-long jaunt and announced that the thing was damned heavy and that this was most likely due to the fact that the current steering setup is bloody awful-nay, dangerous.
Good thing, too, that they therefore had us doing this in remote Norway with its golf-cart speed limits and non-existent Norwegian traffic.